SoftBank Team Japan general manager Kazuhiko Sofuku, known as “Fuku” in the sailing world, has a busy calendar ahead.
Following the team announcing its challenge last week, Fuku must assemble a team to compete at the America’s Cup World Series in Portsmouth. The event begins in less than three months.
But before he focuses on that, he took a moment to reflect on what it means to represent his nation at the America’s Cup with a Japanese team.
“It’s a very big deal. It’s been 15 years since the last time Japan competed in the America’s Cup,” he said. “A lot of people have been waiting for this moment and you can feel there is building excitement about a new challenge under the Japanese flag.
“On a personal level, this is fantastic for me. I started sailing because of the America’s Cup and I’ve been fortunate to already have been a part of it. Now, to lead a Japanese team is a dream come true.”
It wasn’t clear Fuku would get this opportunity. Japan has been out of the America’s Cup since the Nippon Challenge of the 1999-2000.
But now, after a switch to multihulls, and the new cost-containment measures, SoftBank Team Japan has brought the country back into the America’s Cup.
“It’s been tough since the 2007 America’s Cup to be on the outside, but I was always hoping and thinking and preparing to be ready in case there was a chance. And here it is. For me it’s a tremendous opportunity,” Fuku said.
His enthusiasm is even greater for the new America’s Cup Class – the 48-foot foiling catamaran. Although he missed out on a chance to sail any of the foiling cats during the last cycle, he was a keen observer and he has seen first hand how the technology plays in a crowd.
“The new style of America’s Cup racing in the catamarans looks great. It’s challenging, probably more than in the past, but it also just looks like fun.
“I haven’t sailed on these boats yet but when we showed the footage at our launch event the people in the audience were amazed – this is something different.
“It’s good for our sport, good for our partners, and good for us as sailors to have such high-performance boats in the America’s Cup.”